Land-based, brick-and-mortar casinos are famous for their perks and bonuses. They pour thousands of gallons of free booze down the thirsty throats of gamblers to lubricate the betting process. High rollers and sport gamblers enjoy room comps, free feasts, stage shows, and more. Online casinos offer unique casino bonuses and promotions as well. While they can’t serve you a gin and tonic or tempt your taste buds with all-you-can-eat shrimp, online casinos offer a wealth of other types of bonuses to reward VIP players—or simply to welcome new members.

Online Casinos: A Brief History

Sometimes referred to as internet casinos or virtual casinos, online casinos provide web-based or download-based games—or both.  Web-based casino games require Flash, Shockwave, or Java plugins in a browser to function. Many online casinos offer games which can also be downloaded to the user’s device and played online or offline. They either rent or buy their software from companies like Playtech or Realtime Gaming.

Online casinos started operating in the mid-1990s, shortly after widespread use of the internet became commonplace. Early internet gambling consisted mainly of sports betting, but quickly grew to include casino games like poker, baccarat, and slots. In 1996, only 15 internet casinos were in operation. One year later, that figure soared to over 200, with revenues of over $830 million. In 2018, the total revenue for online gambling is estimated at over $50 billion. Nowadays, in addition to poker and slots, online casinos offer players games like blackjack, craps, keno, bingo, and several versions of roulette.

Land-based casinos are relegated to a few well-known hotspots like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or casinos located on tribal land. Online gambling can be done over any internet connection. The U.S. attempted to ban online gambling for U.S. citizens, but it did not pass. Internet casinos with global headquarters now offer gambling to millions of citizens of dozens of countries.

The Need for Bonuses

online casino

Brick-and-mortar casinos operate with a house edge, an advantage built into casino games which ensures their profitability. Otherwise, it would make no sense to operate a casino. Gamblers know that the odds largely favor the casino. But the scarcity of winning big combined with the opportunity to strike it rich appeals to the sense of risk which gives a gambler a buzz. Land-based casino revenues are measured in the multi-billions, so much so that many large casinos tear down their multi-million dollar casinos—just to build more magnificent casinos every decade or so. In order to keep the revenue flowing and the crowds visiting, these casinos also offer an ever-increasing variety of bonuses, perks, and incentives to keep gamblers interested.

Online casinos have no fancy buildings, and therefore rely on an endless supply of new video casino games to entice new players. Most of these casino games are infinite variations on slots games (like Christmas themed slots, etc.). In addition to offering games with slightly better odds of winning than land-based casinos, they also offer a wide variety of bonuses for gamblers.

Types of Online Casino Bonuses

casino bonuses

Welcome bonuses are the most effective way for internet casinos to compete with each other. Internet casinos offer a welcome bonus to new players for the first deposit of real money into a player account at their casino. It is also called a sign-up bonus. Welcome bonuses usually match a deposit made by a player, but they usually come with wagering requirements. Players must place a specified number of bets before they can cash out winnings obtained with the welcome bonus money. Check our guide How to Make Deposit and Claim Your Bonus.

Referral Bonuses

Another popular online casino incentive is the referral bonus. Internet casinos offer bonuses to players who refer new players to their casino. These referral bonuses apply to both the referrer and the new referral, once the new player has completed various wagering requirements. These bonuses are a very effective way to get ‘new blood’ in the game, as regular players are always looking for new bonuses and incentives to keep them gaming.

Insurance (Cashback) Bonuses

casino bonus

In order to soothe the pain associated with a losing streak, many online casinos offer insurance bonuses. These are known as cashback bonuses. A small percentage of a player’s losses are returned to them, based on the losses in previous gaming activity. This small token of generosity from the casino spreads a little goodwill in the face of a losing streak. And it gives a player a little nudge to continue to bet their way out of their run of back luck.

No Deposit Bonuses

By far the most popular form of bonus is the no deposit bonus. In this type of bonus, players are not required to deposit any of their own money in order to play. This is a very effective way of attracting new players who do not wish to risk their own hard-earned cash trying to figure out a new game. However, not all of these bonuses are credited as real cash. Non-cashable bonuses are called ‘phantom’ or ‘sticky’ bonuses. These bonuses apply to a player’s total balance, but cannot be cashed out. The reasoning behind this is to discourage abuse by certain gamers who play every game on every casino web page just to cash out all the bonuses, a behavior called ‘bonus whoring.’ The casino wants to attract new players, but does not wish to be abused.

Comp Points

Land-based casinos are famous for their comps of free drinks and free rooms for regular customers. The casino is happy to compensate the player for regular gambling, especially if they are high rollers. At the end of a lengthy gambling run, the high roller knows that the room is free. Free accommodation is also a great way to keep the high rollers on the premises. Casino staff, such as casino hosts or pit bosses, award comps to players according to their spending behavior. Casinos often provide player reward cards to accumulate and track a player’s comp points.

Online casinos also offer their own types of comp points. These virtual points are often exchanged for small amounts of cash or gaming bonuses such as free spins in slots or roulette, or bonuses for trying new games. As the years pass, more and more online casinos pop up, and more casinos mean more competition. In order to lure and secure regular players and high rollers to their casino, internet casinos offer an increasingly wide variety of bonuses to attract, reward, and keep players gambling.

Bonus Features within Games

In addition to the various types of casino bonuses, internet casinos offer special in-game bonuses exclusive to their games. Slots games offer free spin bonuses when certain wilds or special symbols appear while spinning. When a free spin bonus is triggered, a game within a game opens. Then the player engages in bonus rounds using their free spins to win extra money, multipliers, and even more free spins. Internet casinos also offer bonuses of free chips to card players.

Loyalty and VIP Bonuses

VIP casino bonuses

The key to any casino’s success is to keep players coming back for more. They offer various types of loyalty and VIP Bonuses to players who return and gamble. A plethora of bonuses await the dedicated gambler at most internet casinos. Casinos give loyalty bonuses to players who reach certain stages of betting, including weekly, monthly, and yearly bonuses. Players attain VIP status after a certain amount of money is wagered over time. Each tier of VIP status holds its own special rewards. For example, a VIP Level 5 gets greater bonuses than a Level 1 VIP.

In most cases, loyalty and VIP bonuses are based on a percentage of a player’s last deposit. So if a Level 5 VIP player deposits $100 at one time, he or she will be offered an additional amount of money based on their deposit.

In the end, it’s up to the player to do their research to find the most favorable playing conditions before they plunk down the big money. Which virtual casinos offer the best welcome bonuses? How easy is it to achieve VIP status? Which games offer the lowest house advantage? Most internet casinos offer practical information for first time gamers as well as seasoned high rollers. With a little bit of reading and a marginal investment of time and money, any player can snag a juicy casino bonus. Take an advantage of casino bonuses and get some free money to play with!

Nicola Davidson, a staff writer at Planet 7, is a semi-professional rock climber and lover of poetry and games of skill. When she's not scaling mountains or at an open mic night, Nicola enjoys writing about games like Blackjack and Three Card Poker and putting gaming strategies to the test.